6 January 2018

Uganda: Where Do the Different Foods On Sale in Kampala Come From?

Food baskets. Not many of us care about where the food we are served is grown. Saturday Monitor's Tom Malaba finds that over the recent past different areas have taken to growing crops that they traditionally did not grow while some other areas no longer produce a lot of what they used to offer on the market.

Areas that have over the years been known for growing particular foodstuffs are slowly giving way due to change of weather or reduction in soil fertility, and new areas are emerging to fill the gap.

Kabale, which for many years was the leading supplier of Irish potatoes to Kampala's St Balikuddembe market, for instance, has now been overtaken by new sources of Irish potatoes like Kisoro, Masaka and Mbale.

Kisoro is known for growing a special variety of big purple Irish potatoes that is sliced to make fries, a popular fast food in Kampala.

"We have been receiving Irish potatoes from Kisoro since August, and right now they are still in season until February," says Paul Mugalya, a businessman dealing in Irish potatoes in Balikuddembe market. He says they also receive Irish potatoes from Masaka and Mbale.

Mr Mugalya says while Irish potatoes from Kisoro are good for chips, those from Masaka are good for crisps. Mugalya says Irish potatoes grow well in volcanic soils. Uganda also imports Irish potatoes from the Rift Valley areas of Kenya, but Mr Mugalya says those from Kenya have a lot of water and rot quickly.

Wanaale in Mbale is another new source of Irish potatoes.

"They used to grow Irish potatoes casually but they must have realized the commercial value of growing Irish potatoes; their Irish potatoes is good for both chips and crisps," Mr Mugalya says. The first season of Irish potatoes from Mbale started in June and ended in September last year while the second season that started in November is expected to end January 2018.

New sources of tomatoes

Tomatoes that were traditionally grown in Mpigi, Luwero, Masaka and Bugerere have now shifted to new areas like Semuto.

Mr Peter Musisi Mbugano, a dealer, attributes the shift to reduction in soil fertility in the traditional areas, forcing farmers to move to new areas that are fertile.

Currently a box of tomatoes goes for Shs120,000 but the price may rise up to Shs400,000 and sometimes Shs500,000 if the dry spell persists like it was the case last year.

Uganda currently grows very poor quality carrots in Mbale and the bulk of its carrots that imported from Kenya and Rwanda.

Onions are grown in Kabale and Mbale which ensures Kampala receives little supply leaving Tanzania to supply the bulk of the onions consumed in Kampala.

Although Butambala is still a major source of ginger, other areas are emerging to provide the crop. The new ginger-growing areas, according to dealers, include Singo, Mityana and Gomba.

The emerging area in growing of ginger is Lira, although much of it is consumed locally and the Lira people only supply Kampala when the price per kilogram of ginger reaches say Shs7, 000. Some of the ginger produced in Butambala is exported to Kenya, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ms Halima Namatovu, a dealer in spices, says the bulk of the garlic that is consumed in Uganda is imported from China.

Beyond Uganda

Other products like hibiscus flowers that are used by anemic people that were formerly being imported from Tanzania are now being grown in Iganga. However, tea spices like cinnamon are almost being solely imported from Tanzania, with Uganda still producing very little cinnamon, which is mostly being grown at household level where it's consumed.

Though Ugandans grow cowpeas in the areas of Kasese and Masaka, the bulk of what is consumed in Kampala is imported from Kenya.

The cowpeas season both from Kasese and Masaka barely lasts a month. Though cowpeas imported from Kenya can sustain the market for the better of three months the one grown in Kasese is of a superior quality.

"The cowpeas in Kasese have bigger beans and it gets ready quickly when cooked," says Hajjati Sumaya Nayiga, a dealer. According to her, Gomba and Mbarara are emerging sources of cowpeas.

Gayaza remains the biggest source of green vegetables, while okra, a product that people suffering from ulcers, bone diseases and diabetes find handy, is mainly grown in parts of Busoga and Luwero. A kilogramme of okra currently sells at between Shs2500 - Shs3000.

Pineapples shift

Masaka has overtaken Bugerere in growing of pineapples, dealers say.

"People in Masaka started growing pineapples when East Mengo Cooperative Society sought to make juice from pineapples, but when the idea collapsed farmers continued to growing pineapples for the open market," says Livingstone Mutumba, a pineapple dealer.

Though some pineapples are consumed locally, lots of them are exported to Kenya, South Sudan and other countries. Currently in S. Balikudembe market, a pineapple head currently sells between Shs1000 and Shs3,000.

While water melons that were originally grown in Masaka around Buganga, the practice has since been embraced by the people of Busoga, who currently grow more water melon than any other place in the country.

Beans that used to come from Mubende and Kiboga now mostly come in from Mbarara and Masaka, with Kasese and Kabale also supplying huge quantities of different varieties of beans..

Schools and individual households constitute a big market for the beans produced in the country, but a bulk of the beans is exported to Kenya, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Gulu and Arua remains the biggest sources of groundnuts consumed in Kampala. Masindi and Hoima also grow some groundnuts, the dealers say. However, supply of groundnuts on the market remains low because farmers horde their groundnuts and only sell when they wish. Ground nuts are not eaten by insects.

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